The 2011 NAMM musical-instrument show was held this past January 13 through 16 at the Anaheim Convention Center in California. This annual event, sponsored by the International Music Products Association, is America’s largest trade show for the showcasing of musical instruments and accessories.
Gretsch Drums and Gretsch Guitars were both major participants in this year’s show, with plenty of new products to display. In addition, Fred and Dinah Gretsch were on hand—along with other members of the Gretsch family—to lend their special personal touch to all of the Gretsch-related activities.
Here are a few of the many highlights from this year’s show:
Fred and Kanda Shokai
The NAMM show always involves lots of terrific new product introductions, thrilling artist performances and generally a great deal of excitement all around. But ultimately all the companies are there to do business and as pictured here, Fred briefs representatives from Kanda Shokai, Gretsch’s Japanese distributor, on all the new products being introduced at the show. Kanda Shokai is one of Gretsch’s longest-serving international distributors and the Gretsch family have enjoyed a close relationship with the company for many, many years.
Gretsch Drums on Display
Gretsch Drums had plenty of great new gear to showcase at this year’s NAMM show. Here are just a few:
Fred Gretsch Meets CoverBand 2011 Drum Winner
Fred Gretsch enjoyed a special treat at the NAMM show this year: the opportunity to congratulate Tohbias Juniel of Denver, Colorado, who was the winning drummer in the CoverBand 2011 contest. Gretsch Drums was one of several major musical instrument manufacturers who combined to sponsor the online competition.
The contest invited individual musicians and vocalists to upload a two-minute video to the CoverBand 2011 website between July and December of last year. A general-public vote determined the finalists. A panel of celebrity judges then selected the winners.
A trip to Anaheim to perform at the NAMM show was part of the prize for the winning CoverBand members. For thirty-one-year-old Tohbias, that was just part of the thrill. He also received a brand-new Gretsch Renown four-piece kit in a classy Satin Black finish, along with a Full Range Hammered Steel Shell snare drum. The kit was complemented with a terrific cymbal package from Sabian and road-tested hardware from Gibraltar.
Fred and Tohbias met at the Gretsch Drums booth on Saturday morning, January 15. They had the opportunity to chat a bit before Tohbias left to rehearse for the CoverBand 2011 concert later that evening. During their meeting, Fred was particularly pleased to learn that Tohbias is already a dedicated Gretsch player. As Tohbias explained, “I’ve been playing Gretsch drums for most of my career. I bought a Renown Maple kit about ten years ago, and it’s all I’ve been playing. So I’m thrilled to be getting a new Gretsch kit to work with.”
When Fred asked Tohbias how he came to be a drummer, Tohbias replied, “My father, Chester Juniel, was a director of a drum & bugle corps in the Denver area. So from the time I was about two years old I was always around drumming. I learned how to read music and how to read books at the same time.”
But drum & bugle corps wasn’t the only style of drumming that Tohbias was exposed to at home. “My father also played drumset,” said Tohbias, “and so did my older brother Steven. So I was playing on a set by the time I was in elementary school. Later I went to high school at the Denver School of the Arts. Orlando Otis, the instrumental music director there, pushed me to pursue drumset seriously, since I was already heavily into marching and concert percussion.”
Tohbias did, indeed, pursue drumset seriously. In fact, he took every possible opportunity to expand his musical skills. “When I was fourteen I was playing with cats in their forties and fifties,” he related. “My dad would take me to shows and then stay in the parking lot and read a paper until the gig was finished, since I had to have a parent around. I was sitting in on blues and rock gigs, but the jazz cats wouldn’t let me sit in because there was so much more to jazz music than just pocket. Fortunately for me, a local drummer named Rudy Roysten—who’s played with everybody—took me under his wing and showed me how to do some things. Still, it took me a while to get to where I could do the things I wanted to—the way I heard guys like Brian Blade and Jeff Watts do them.”
Tohbias’s entry for the CoverBand 2011 contest displayed the influence of his musical education, along with a substantial amount of his own talent and originality. His two-minute video was a mix of funk, pop, and fusion-esque styles that burned and grooved at the same time. When Fred Gretsch asked Tohbias about his favorite musical style to play, he replied, “I really love everything. Right now I’m playing a lot with a singer-songwriter from Nashville named Calvin Locklear. And I’m playing in a funk/alternative band called Bop Skizzum here in Denver. I play pop, R&B, Latin . . . I love it all. I feel that as a drummer it’s important to be diverse. Basically I’m on call for whatever anybody wants. I try to study, do my homework, and keep up with all the different genres. If I sit down on a gig and the song is a polka, I want people to think I specialize in polka music.”
Finally, Fred asked Tohbias about his aspirations and goals. The talented drummer responded, “Right now I’m looking to move up in my career . . . to play on the big stages. I’d really like to get some tours and some recording sessions with top artists around the world. I also want to do some writing and see where that goes. So I’m looking to relocate to the L.A. area. I was out there in the summer of 2008, doing some sessions and playing with a hip-hop group. I want to be where things are happening in the music scene. I’ve been fortunate to meet some pretty talented people with kind hearts who are willing to share information. I definitely want to pursue those possibilities.”
Gretsch Guitars Launches George Harrison Tribute Model
There was lots of excitement at the Gretsch Guitars booth, where a large display of George Harrison and Beatle memorabilia was highlighted by a case containing a new Gretsch guitar created as a tribute to the great George Harrison.
The tribute guitar is a faithful reproduction of a guitar that George played and favored in the 1960s, in the early days of his career. That instrument, well worn and road-traveled, was loaned by the George Harrison estate to the skilled guitar customizers at Gretsch to use as the basis of a modern replica. At the same time, Fred and Dinah Gretsch communicated with George Harrison’s family to obtain their blessing for a tribute instrument bearing of the late former Beatle’s name.
Time and loving care were invested in both efforts, and the result is the Gretsch Custom Shop G6128T-GH George Harrison Tribute Duo Jet guitar. This exceptionally special instrument will be available in a very limited edition.
And Then There’s Kim . . .
Fans of Gretsch guitars also tend to be fans of the Great Gretsch Girl . . . Kim Falcon. The lovely pin-up girl has appeared for Gretsch on posters, in ads, and at live events all across the country. Now she’s on her very own guitar. It features a gloss white finish as a background for an artistically created rendering of Kim herself, with her autograph shown below. It turned a lot of heads while in a glass case at a trade show. Imagine the effect it will have on stage!
A Family Gathering
Three generations of Gretsches were on hand at this year’s NAMM show. Fred and Dinah were joined by son, Fred Gretsch Jr., who is actively involved with the Gretsch Foundation and is becoming a regular attendee at NAMM shows. In addition, one of their 16 grandchildren, grandson Calvin Rane Gretsch, was in attendance and saw duty behind the counter of the Bigsby Vibrato booth.
This year’s NAMM show was a great success with many new products on display and excitement to spare. Gretsch is now busy preparing for other events in 2011 including the Summer NAMM show which will feature a “Wanna Play” public day on July 23.
Check back often for all the latest news and updates.